Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday urged the public to stop debating on the cancelled face-off between President Duterte and retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio on the West Philippine Sea issue, saying China is the one benefitting on this row.
Pangilinan reiterated that what the Philippines ought to have is a united stand at this point to prove and assert the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and its rights to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Basta sa akin, sa gulong ito, ang China ang nakikinabang. So hindi dapat ganun. Dapat unahin natin interes ng ating bansa. Hindi tayo dapat napupunta sa usapan ng debate (To me, in this brouhaha, China is the one benefitting. It shouldn’t be that way. We should prioritize the interest of the country. We shouldn’t be talking about debates),” Pangilinan said in an interview over Radio DZRH.
“Dahil ang China ang ating katunggali, hindi ang kapwa Pilipino (Because China is the enemy here, not our fellow Filipino),” the senator pointed out.
At the same time, Pangilinan also expressed dismay that no less than the President himself belittled the Philippines’ victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague, as a “mere piece of paper.”
He also said Vietnam and Indonesia are also using this arbitral ruling that is in favor of the Philippines: “So hindi totoo yan. Nakakalungkot na parang spokesperson nan g China ang Malacanang, at hindi naman dapat ganito (That is not true. It’s sad to see that Malacanang is turning to be a spokesperson for China, when that should not be the case).”
Pangilinan said Duterte should lead the nation in fighting and asserting the position of the Philippines over these territories instead of constantly changing his mind “wherever the wind blows.”
“Alam nyo ba ang inaagaw sa atin ay halos doble ang area, territorial land or lupa ay 300 thousand square kilometers? (Do you have any idea that the territorial land that they are seizing from us is almost 300,000 square kilometers)?” he pointed out.
“Yung pinag-uusapang EEZ ay 500 thousand square meters. Halos doble at nariyan ang oil, natural gas, aquamarine resources, seaweed, etc. Dapat yun pag-usapan at ipaglaban natin (The EEZ in question is worth 500,000 square meters. That’s almost double and we are also speaking of oil, natural gas, aquamarine resources, seaweed, etc. Those are the things we should be talking about and fighting about),” he stressed.
Duterte earlier decided to back out of a debate with Carpio, after he challenged the latter to one and the former magistrate answered yes to his dare. He designated his spokesperson Harry Roque to debate with Carpio instead.
Roque, in a televised interview, said it was the Cabinet, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, III who advised the President not to push through with the debate.
According to Roque, it would not be fair for Duterte to be pitted against Carpio who is “now just an ordinary lawyer” and that everything the President would say in that debate might affect the policies of government.